When Do I Need to Take My Cat to the ER Vet?

Last week, we talked about canine signs that require a mandatory emergency veterinary visit. This week, we’re going to discuss feline signs that require one.

As a veterinarian, I don’t like to see animals in pain. Hence, I’ll be blunt in telling you that it’s not peaceful to die at home or to have a medical problem remain untreated. It's often painful to die of severe kidney failure, metabolic problems, or even anemia. More on the double "S" next week: Slowly Suffering.

As a pet owner, maybe you’re not sure if you should take your dog or cat to the vet. Well, educate yourself and be the best advocate for your pet. Know that resources abound out there; a phone call to your local emergency veterinarian, a last-minute visit to your veterinarian, or even the Internet (albeit not always the most reliable source). When in doubt, call your veterinarian or an emergency clinic for counsel on whether to take your cat in for an emergency visit. Often times, the receptionist or veterinary technician may be able to help triage your cat’s problem over the phone and help you decide if it warrants an emergency veterinary visit.

When in doubt, take your cat to the veterinarian or emergency veterinarian. Even though it may be expensive, the $135 for the emergency fee may give you the peace of mind that all is okay. After all, no animal should have to die at home, as the signs are typically pretty severe for this to happen. Even if it’s at 2 a.m. and inconvenient, please don’t let your cat suffer at home. Keep in mind that it’s really painful and miserable to die at home, when it could have been medically treated to begin with.

Even if you have financial limitations and know you can’t spend thousands of dollars in a veterinary ER, at least you can (1) find out what’s wrong with your cat, and (2) humanely euthanize so your cat doesn’t suffer at home to the point of death.

Some sure signs to take your cat to the ER include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Open-mouth breathing (cats always prefer to breath via their nose — if they show signs of open-mouth breathing, they are having severe difficulty or are extremely stressed!)
  • Panting
  • A respiratory rate over fifty breaths per minute (hint: count the number of breaths in fifteen seconds and multiple by four to get the total breaths per minute)
  • Excessive drooling
  • Hiding (under the bed, in the closet)
  • Not moving
  • Straining or making multiple trips to the litter box
  • Profuse vomiting
  • Sitting over the water bowl and not moving (cats are desert creatures and you should rarely see them hanging at the water bowl – if you do, something is wrong!)
  • Seizuring or twitching
  • Any kind of trauma
  • Any kind of toxicity
  • Any string hanging out of any orifice (don’t pull, please!).

While this list isn’t complete, it’s a good initial guideline. When in doubt, please seek veterinary advice immediately. You won’t regret playing it too safe with your fuzzy feline.

Dr. Justine Lee

Image: Anna Dickie / via Shutterstock 

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